The film is set in the crowded slums of 18th century Tokyo, where powerful samurai Mori holds absolute sway. Among other things, he demands that the daughter of a pawnbroker be forced into marriage, although her heart belongs to one of her father’s employees. Mori also tries to forcibly prevent the games of chance that the barber, Shinza, runs in the neighborhood at night. But Shinza fights back by kidnapping the bride, meaning great humiliation for her ‘godfather.’ … The film begins and ends with a suicide, and in between, director Sadao Yamanaka (1909 – 1938), who died young, takes us through the narrow alleys of the slums. The gradation between light and dark surfaces, however, gives the location enormous depth of field. Inspired by low-key American gangster films, the cinematographer Akira ‘Harry’ Mimura time and again plunges the collected view of lower middle-class existence into darkness. In this way, he emphasizes the shadowy side of lives that are sometimes, if only sparsely, brightened up, as if by paper lanterns (‘andon’), by natural light sources, but also by the compassionate humanity of an affable landlord.
by Sadao Yamanaka
with Chojuro Kawarasaki, Tsuruzo Nakamura, Kanemon Nakamura